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Prudence

 

I was brought up by an awful old crab. She talked to me down there as if I was a daisy in the dirt and I so wanted to be in with the clever people… the people in the high-heeled court shoes. My mother died so I had to leave the family home. But that’s donkeys’ years ago. I could have died a hundred times since. It’s a funny old world… England for the English! Nice work if you could get itand you can get it if you try.                     My father went in the war. My aunt said, Don’t you wear those high-heeled court shoes. I said, Who said that, Jesus? All the best people wore the high-heeled court shoes! It was a different world back then. All the high-class women were in high-heeled court shoes, in the gay ’60s, high-heeled court shoes. So that’s what I wore.               Gloria married Norman Hartnell… no, she never. Aunt and Uncle used to say, Who do you think you are? Don’t dare wear those high-heeled court shoes. What have you got those shoes on for?                      Tell me, are we stuck here forever?                   Do everything you’re told, for your new mother. Wear your flat shoes, not your high-heeled court shoes. It’ll be the devil gets you wearing them high-heeled court shoes. That’s what he said. Have you heard of Norman Hartnell? Lovely man, worshipped the Queen. Is she dead?  Don’t wear those high-heeled court shoes. Who said that? The devil? I met the Queen, the Queen of the country, not the Queen of the world. I went to Paris on honeymoon. It’s nice, I bought some high-heeled court shoes.                            No one here’s English. England forever! Don’t forget who you are! Hats I made… on heads to be worn. I went to Paris to buy my shoes but oh, you had to be English.                               I had an aunt, she used to buy high-heeled court shoes, shoes with high heels, have you heard of them? What was it I used to wear in Kensington? I was tall, the smartest on earth. Don’t come here, I said with my breath, don’t come here in those high-heeled court shoes. Oh to be in England now that spring is there. England for the English, eh? My uncle used to say, You’re not going out in those high-heeled court shoes. I said, Get lost. Who are you, Jesus? God Almighty?  I walked out in my high-heeled court shoes.                            I’ve still got the same husband… James or something like that… Tom. A nice looking man… English. Oh to be in England now that spring is there It’s nice work if you can get itand you can get it if you try… My aunt used to say it… not, not, not in the high… it was for me… high-heeled court shoes. I said, No, I’d fly in them instead. Oh to be in England… Gloria and me… Don’t you wear any more those high-heeled court shoes. I said, You get lost and I’ll choose my shoes. Very rude I was, shame I never got a good hiding.                             Norman Hartnell dressed the Queen of England. Mr Norman Hartnell, doing this and doing that, for the best people. I never did anything very spectacular. I was  happy… happy as a child. Oh to be in England now that April’s there… Norman Hartnell had a beautiful car… a lovely man. He dressed the Queen. I was in hats, millinery… posh hats. But I always had my high-heeled court shoes.                  My aunt and uncle brought me up but they’re all dead now, homely people. You just move on, don’t hang about, there are plenty of big holes for you to fall down. Be careful don’t fall down a hole. Women just had to have the top, top, top… shoes… the high-heeled court shoes. My aunt couldn’t afford them… they had ordinary jobs. Holding hands at midnight then just taking a bow nice work if you could get itand you can get it if you try. I’m nine hundred years old now. It was a million years ago. Everyone wanted to be English. England for the English! We won the war a dozen times so they all wanted to be English. Oh to be in England now that April’s there… I honeymooned in Paris… but that’s nine hundred years ago. I dunno what I look like now. What will they say to me when I go up there to the Pearly Gates? The man… you know dear, I’m nine hundred years old? He’ll say, Get lost! And take your high-heeled court shoes with you. I don’t think I’m far off. I’m only just about hanging on.                         Nice work if you can get it and you can get it if you try. My aunt was very right… don’t pretend to be something you’re not… We were all scratching about for something worth having… your fate is in your hands and if you die that’s it. It’s goodnight nurse, bow your head to the Lord.                           I remember all these very clever men… I’ve still got them in my brain-box… and I can pick ’em out. They dressed the Queen… they fought to dress the Queen of England. She was a tough white woman and weak men hate tough white women… and Norman Hartnell… absolutely charming man. Hello Prudence, how are you?                     I made all the Queen’s hats, Yes, Madam, only you could wear it… how awful! Oh to be in England now that’s April’s there… The English people are different, aren’t they? For what we got used to and what we put up with… The high-heeled court shoes became fashionable… my sister used to say, What are you going to do about those high-heeled court shoes? I used to say, If you don’t shut your mouth… I’d say to my mother, I want a new pair of shoes… and we said it together, High-heeled court shoes! I want, want, want the… I said… want the high-heeled court shoes. I haven’t any at the moment… I think I wore ’em out with all the talking.                   I was brought up by some crappy old aunt… Mrs… oh I’ve forgotten. I’m living too long… I think it was her… she used to say, Don’t you come back here in those high-heeled court shoes. I said, Thank you, I’ll stop the Devil and drop his shoes off for him!                               When I get up to God I’m going to explain all the bad things that I did… this, that and the other… troublesome relatives, jealous of everything I’ve got. I was brought up by an old crab. She talked to me as if I was a daisy in the dirt. I wanted to be in with the clever people in the high-heeled… the people in the high-heeled court shoes.

 

Edited by Colette Bryce